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Flash Review 2, 10-12:
Flash with Class
DCDC Dances On and On
By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2000 Terry Hollis
Dayton Contemporary Dance
Company celebrated the opening of its New York season at the Joyce
Theater on Tuesday night. Oh, I'm sure there were cocktails and
munchies after the show and plenty of music and conversation, but
that's not how the company celebrated -- they danced. And they danced,
and they danced. With most of the performers holding down each piece
it didn't come down to simple stamina, but rather, "This is who
we are and this is what we do." The audience loved watching them
do it. The company delivers the fire and technique that has become
the calling card of lots of groups. But, with a variety of sizes
and body types, this is no homogenized dance machine. The joy comes
in seeing a personable, connected community of people that just
happen to be amazing dancers.
"Sets and Chasers" opened
the evening on a light-hearted note. Kevin Ward has choreographed
a casual, everyday romp for eleven people set to live recordings
by Duke Ellington. Costumed in street clothes reminiscent of the
Jazz Age forties, the piece opens with the dancers in a group facing
upstage while Ricardo J. Garcia Cruz stands apart. As the music
gets into them, their bodies begin to erupt in little interpretations
of each riff until the whole group is one big physical orchestra.
The work moves along at a pretty even pace, and aside from a sly
women's duet and a gawky trio that incredibly uses awkwardness to
showcase some dare-devil virtuosity, there are not many punctuation
marks. A large part of the work takes place with the dancers' backs
to us, relating to each other and sometimes even closing the audience
out. When the dancing isn't flat-out technical, Mr. Ward uses either
abstract jitterbug steps or, as shown at the finale of the piece,
the real thing. "Sets and Chasers" is relaxing to watch because
your are not forced to keep up with some rigid logic that the choreographer
throws at you. But the ambling nature of the piece does slow things
down a little. Ellington's tunes provide a nice undercurrent for
the whole thing. It's kept far enough in the background so that
neither the dance nor the music fight for dominance.
Dwight Rhoden has created
an icy universe in his mega-aerobic "Sky Garden." Starting in silence,
the indomitable Sheri "Sparkle" Williams is hoisted up and around
by her partner using her legs to carve out the space around him.
As Antonio Carlos Scott's metallic electronica pipes in, the dancers
begin filling the space with their chests thrust up and ready for
battle. The men engage the women in acrobatic and sometimes rough
and tumble partnering but it never reads as abusive. Mr. Rhoden
creates some great geometric patterns onstage, keeping one group
in motion, another in a spread-eagle position with their heads flat
on the floor and still another engaged in traveling partnering steps
that cut through everyone. The piece does go on a little too long
and it appears to have several different points, but the dancers
do justice to every step.
Ms. Williams, who does
double time with Complexions Dance Company, gives us the meaning
of the word endurance. She makes "Growth (A Part of a Bigger Picture)"
something anyone, not just dancers, can relate to. Mr. Rhoden's
second contribution to the night celebrates the indestructible spirit
and the transforming power of taking your body to the limit. Set
to a minimal score by Steve Reich, the piece opens with the heavily
muscled Williams standing squarely facing the audience. In a black
body suit, she cuts the figure of a warrior preparing for battle.
As the dance gets going you realize she is both the fighter and
the opponent and the acrobatics she blazes through represent a day
in the life of everyday folks.
Anytime you use a live
brass band in a theater the size of the Joyce, you're gonna feel
it. The power of brass rattles your bones. Take that and combine
it with choreography that does the same thing and you get an idea
of what "Children of the Passage" is like. This collaboration between
Donald McKayle and Ronald K. Brown presents a different jazz age;
that of old New Orleans. In a loosely structured storyline, Mr.
Brown's body-pumping choreography shows us a group of souls moving
towards a deliverance. Omotayo W. Olanja creates beautiful flowing
dresses for the women and tailored vests and pants for the men that
place this work firmly in the past. Mr. McKayle has placed his stamp
of out-and-out theater on the piece, especially in the Gede-like
playful figure in the second section, "Indulgent Spirit." But Brown
rips the piece out of the past. With his trademark style, he combines
the aloof strut with the raw physical passion that is imprinted
on his work and puts these folks in the here and now. The funeral
scene that occurs about halfway through the piece uses loose shoulders
and arms to illustrate the hopelessness that weighs the group down.
It is soon offset by an exuberant, almost non-stop dance party at
the end that whipped the audience into a frenzy Tuesday. As the
Dirty Dozen Brass Band blares out the final notes, the company,
now dressed in all white, celebrates all the weight that has been
taken off of their shoulders. These children are free, and to announce
that good feeling they danced. And they danced, and they danced.
Dayton Contemporary Dance
Company continues at the Joyce through October 15. For more information,
please visit the Joyce web site.
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